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Designing the ’90s NHL, Part 4: To The Extreme

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Designing the ’90s NHL, Part 4: To The Extreme

I thought this series would conclude with Part 3, but new stories of NHL logo design of 1990s seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Here in Part 4, a story of myth becomes real.

In Part 3, I lauded the Colorado Avalanche for having such an excellent logo. But things very nearly went in the opposite direction for this franchise.

The tale has long been told that in 1995 the Avs were originally supposed to be named the Rocky Mountain Extreme. I call it myth because it was a story that lacked any visual evidence.

Until now.

Rocky Mountain Extreme logos by Michael Beindorff via Mixbook

These stories work best when told from the beginning.

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

1995. That was a rough year for NHL fans. We lost half the season to a lockout. The Capitals and Islanders killed their 20-year-old identities with controversial new logos. And the famed Nordiques were mercilessly ripped away from the people of Quebec.

But let's back up for a second. Before the Nordiques were ripped away, they had no intention of leaving. In fact, management was planning for the future by rebranding the franchise with a new logo, uniforms, and new colors (with our '90s favorite, teal!).

Check out this article printed in The Hockey News in April 1995 for details:

Nordiques will have new look in 1996-97
Compiled by the THN Staff
The Quebec Nordiques don't have a new arena yet, but a new logo and colors are on the way.
When the Journal de Quebec published the Nordiques' new colors March 30, the team had no choice but to confirm the makeover.
The team's road jersey will be dark blue with a few lines of a teal-like green color, black, white, and silver. The crest has a large head of a husky dog with its teeth bared. They will sport their new colors in 1996-97 and not next season (1995-96) because they failed to meet the NHL's deadline for a logo change.

Strike one.

A ROCKY START

When the Nordiques owner was unable to keep the team in Quebec, it was sold to Denver-based COMSAT Entertainment Group. Apparently their instinct was to name it the Rocky Mountain Extreme. It even got as far as the logo design process.

Most fans have never seen these designs, despite the fact that they've been hiding on the Internet for more than three years. Graphic designer Michael Beindorff published the sketches in an ebook featuring samples of his work.

The "Extreme" name was leaked by Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, at which point Colorado hockey fans loudly objected. As any reasonable person would expect.

Strike two.

IN SEARCH OF AN IDENTITY

The new owners decided to do what they probably should've done in the first place. They invited fan input on the name. Among the options presented were Black Bears, Cougars, Outlaws, Rapids, Renegades, Storm, Wranglers, and of course, Avalanche.

Photo from Adam Jones via Photobucket

The photo above was uploaded without its source identified, but it could be an early Avalanche game program. I'd love any help from Avs fans.

Surprisingly, fan voting didn't yield the name we know today. Coloradans weren't initially interested in Avalanche. They wanted the Cougars, according to a book called History and Heroes: The Story of the Colorado Avalanche by Bill McAuliffe.

When the Quebec Nordiques were purchased by COMSAT Entertainment Group in 1995, it was clear that the team would need a new name. Nordiques means "Northerners," and that certainly didn't describe Denver.
At first, the new owners wanted to call the team the Rocky Mountain Extreme, but the Colorado public didn't like that. ... The owners set up a "feedback forum" in which fans could identify their preference for a new name. "Cougars" won out in the fan voting, but the owners had the final say and decided on "Avalanche."
The name was unique in all of professional sports, describing the dangerous snow slides that can occur in mountainous areas such as Colorado.

With the name settled, Beindorff — the team's in-house graphic designer — was called to action once again, under the guidance of creative director Dan Price — who now heads an agency called Adrenalin (responsible for the current Coyotes logo).

Again, Beindorff's ebook provides insight into the design process.

I'm always captivated by seeing a series of sketches that ultimately led to a great logo. Without these, we would not have the great icon we see today.

For more, we turn back to the publication that showed us the original team name options.

Photo from Adam Jones via Photobucket

If it helps in identifying the book, this photo is visibly credited to Cyrus McCrimmon, who currently works for the Denver Post.

Finally, on Aug. 10, 1995, the Colorado Avalanche were introduced to the world.

col95.jpg

From the SportsBusiness Daily report:

Colorado's new NHL team will be called the Colorado Avalanche and its logo will feature a color scheme of burgundy, silver, blue and black. ... The logo and colors were designed in partnership between the NHL's David Haney and COMSAT's Creative Dir. Dan Price, Sr. Art Dir. Michael Beindorff and Art Dir. Rick Pillmon. 

Home run. After averting two branding disasters, it's clear the third time was the charm for this franchise — named the Avalanche. The irony.

So what do you think of all that?

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Creating the St. John's IceCaps third jersey

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Creating the St. John's IceCaps third jersey

BEHIND THE SCENES

The AHL's St. John's IceCaps unveiled their third jersey last November, but last week they wanted to remind us how it came about by tweeting a past YouTube video.

We've been doing a lot of peeking behind the curtain around here lately so I thought it appropriate to mention this video.

The fact that the design was created by a fan who approached the team — and not the other way around — should give hope to our many talented concept artists.

Hopefully it sticks around beyond 2016 when the franchise is set to relocate to Thunder Bay.

In case you can't play the video above, here are some stills I grabbed. Because who doesn't love watching a graphic artist create a hockey sweater?

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Manchester Monarchs scrap purple, swipe Kings jerseys

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Manchester Monarchs scrap purple, swipe Kings jerseys

Monarchs' home and road jerseys, 2014— // Photos from LA Kings Insider

The AHL's Manchester Monarchs lost a piece of their identity Wednesday. They scrapped the purple and gold from their color scheme and unveiled new home and road jerseys identical to those of their NHL affiliate, the Los Angeles Kings.

Perhaps they're just trying to capitalize on the Kings' recent Stanley Cup championships, but this is nevertheless a depressing development for a club that once had a truly unique look.

“These jerseys tie us to our parent club, the Kings,” said [Monarchs president Darren] Abbott. “The Monarchs have so many players that have gone on to play for the Kings and have helped them win Stanley Cup championships in Los Angeles that we wanted to bring their identity into our uniforms.”

I'm of the opinion players shouldn't be wearing NHL jerseys until they make the NHL, but obviously Abbott disagrees.

This is almost a literal representation of what I think when I see an AHLer wearing an NHL jersey.

This is almost a literal representation of what I think when I see an AHLer wearing an NHL jersey.

If you live in New Hampshire, the new sweaters will be available very soon.

The jerseys were unveiled at a press conference held at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Wednesday that introduced head coach Mike Stothers to Manchester. Fans will be able to purchase the new jerseys at the Monarchs' annual Summer Fan Fest ... on Saturday, July 26. 

For more photos from the unveiling, check out L.A. Kings Insider.

What do you think of the Monarchs switching to these jerseys? Be sure to vote in the poll.


Manchester Monarchs home and road jerseys, 2010—2014

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Is the NHL planning black and neon green All-Star jerseys?

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Is the NHL planning black and neon green All-Star jerseys?

Reebok's NHL Spring 2015 apparel catalog has leaked online and it provides some fascinating insights into the aesthetics of the upcoming 2015 NHL All-Star Game.

The catalog shows black and neon green heavily featured on the T-shirt designs from a line styled after jerseys. All of the following images are pulled from that catalog.

We begin on page 94 where the Premier replica All-Star jerseys are noted. Unfortunately, the designs were not included when this catalog was last updated on May 29 — the date seen on the cover. So what can we glean from this page?

  • Delivery date is listed as Jan. 1, 2015 — the date of of the Winter Classic in Washington, D.C. Could the jerseys be unveiled at the NHL's signature New Year's Day event?
  • The codes "HA1-WHITE" and "HA2-BLACK" appear below the graphic. Might they suggest the colors of the two jerseys? The last time the NHL had a black versus white All-Star Game was 1993 — back when they used the old NHL shield and orange trim.
  • Speaking of trim, check out the bar at the top that reads "Men's Jerseys." Will neon green return to NHL ice for the first time since the Blue Jackets dropped it in 2007? Don't forget, this All-Star Game will be played in Columbus. Coincidence?

All I know is the appearance of neon green — or electric green as the Jackets referred to it — made several more appearances in the catalog.

If we skip down a few pages, we find that electric green used in several T-shirt designs.

Not only is there a green shirt in the batch, but the player numbers — which would be printed on the back — are black outlined in green.

It's hard not to see this as being pulled straight from the jerseys.

Also noteworthy is the new treatment for the All-Star version of the NHL shield. If it seems familiar, you're probably thinking about the chrome logos introduced last year for the teams that participated in the 2014 NHL Stadium Series.

But, wait there's more. More neon green, of course. 

Several other T-shirts include various alternate treatments for the logo — particularly in black, grey and green.

If you're still not sold on the idea that neon green is likely to be part of the NHL All-Star Game jerseys — you're probably part of a dwindling group.

Unless there's another reason for it that I'm failing to see.

Beyond the shirts are some headwear selections, including these hats.

0716-rbk15-124.jpg

If you're not interested in downloading the catalog yourself — or it's no longer available when you're reading this, I've grabbed some more T-shirt designs that use a ton of variations on the All-Star Game logo. You'll definitely have your pick if you end up buying one.

If you're looking at some of these treatments and thinking they look rather girly, it's probably because they're women's designs.

Anyway, there are definitely a lot of options here — male or female.

Have a favorite design? Let us know in the comments.

Lastly, I can't end this post without at least mentioning the IceHL — Icethetics' own fantasy hockey league. We have a team whose colors may seem quite familiar. 

To those who have wanted to see a North Carolina Nighthawks jersey produced, stay tuned. The new NHL All-Star uniforms may be right up your alley.

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Designing the ’90s NHL, Part 3: Epilogue

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Designing the ’90s NHL, Part 3: Epilogue

Before you dig in, first catch up on Part 1 and Part 2.

What began as a feature on an unused Flyers third jersey design took me in unexpected directions. Exchanging emails with Ken Loh over the weekend got me thinking a lot about the jerseys and logos the NHL introduced in the 1990s.

PUT SOME TEAL ON IT

The decade welcomed nine expansion teams, including a pair in 1993 — one of which was the Florida Panthers. To my surprise Ken and The Mednick Group also worked on proposals for them. These logos have never been seen outside that circle before today.

These designs reminded me of a Miami Herald article from 2010 by George Richards.

Bill Torrey said he had to fight with then-owner Marti Huizenga regarding the team's colors and uniforms back in 1993. Said she preferred the Marlins black-and-teal color scheme, which then, was all the rage.

That quote is finally validated visually with this work which demonstrates exactly how black and teal might have been used. But Ken admits he was not particularly proud of it. 

I’m actually really glad that never saw the light of day since I felt it was too cartoony. I much preferred the simpler, more emblematic approach which, [in my honest opinion], had better potential for a longer lifespan.
However, I was a lowly designer, pretty fresh out of school at the time and, despite my credentials of having come to the agency with the New England Patriots work under my belt, I didn’t really have much pull back then.

Ken opposed incorporating a hockey stick into the design. Above you can see an unfinished sketch he shared — a version of the panther without the stick.

Other concepts from the Panthers' logo design process can be found on display these days in the team's arena in Sunrise, Fla. On the wall are framed drawings of early sketches.

My thanks go to Drew Goldfarb and David Silverstone for providing the original photos.

SURVIVING THE ’90s

The Panthers aside, I starting thinking about how many new logos were introduced during that most design-challenged of decades. How many are still around? The period was notorious for trendy designs that lacked staying power. Is that a fair judgment?

So I went back. Back to black. When many of us think back hockey design trends of the '90s, we conjure a simple but derisive acronym: BFBS — black for black's sake. In 1989, four NHL teams wore black jerseys. A decade later that number had tripled — 12 out of 28 teams had a black sweater in their arsenal. Let's begin there.

Be sure to click through the logos and read the captions as they offer insight into the designs as well as the years they were introduced and subsequently jettisoned.

Teams like Coyotes, Kings and Sabres suffered through some unfortunate designs at that time. Others like the Lightning and Stars were just plain boring and lacking in any sense of style — good or bad. But don't start thinking the non-black jerseys were immune.

In fact, these were some of the worst offenders of the '90s. Look at them all. What do they have in common? Ken Loh said it. The hockey sticks. Only someone who isn't a hockey fan would do that to a team logo.

And while the Caps logo above may not have a stick — though the secondary mark sure did (a lousy puck, too) — I'd bet money those open claws once held a stick at some point during the design process. Kudos to whoever forced that eagle to release it.

I'm certainly making the '90s out to be like the Dark Ages of hockey logo design. But truthfully, it wasn't all bad. Some logos are still around — after a bit of nip and tuck.

Perhaps more fascinating were two of the last logos to come out of this decade. The Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets didn't play their first games until 2000, but their logos were absolutely products of the '90s — though they couldn't have been more different.

Have I warmed you enough yet to the idea that not everything produced in the 1990s was bad? Because it wasn't. There are a handful of '90s NHL logos I haven't mentioned here. You know what they are. I held them to the end for the catharsis.

Let's bring it full circle. Back to the Sunshine State.

See? There were some gems. Granted, the majority were flops. Of the 20 logos that debuted in the 1990s, 15 did not live to see drinking age (21, I mean). But the ones that did deserved to. Survival of the fittest, you might say.

But didn't I just berate the Sharks and Predators for being too intricate? Why do I suddenly love the Panthers logo? Look closely. The difference is in the details. For Florida, it adds to the animal ferocity. It adds to the design — rather than detracting from it.

The Hurricanes logo was designed by a copy writer and hides a hockey puck at its core. Cardinal sins? Maybe, but you try to do better. No one else has yet. And there's been ample opportunity. So I'm happy to see it entering its 18th year. Stick tap to Peter.

As for the Avs and Blues, well there's simply no way to improve upon perfection. Period.

I grew up in the '90s and it's sometimes hard for me to fathom that it was two decades ago. I still feel like a kid most days. Time flies. But here's the thing. I was the target audience for those trendy designs back then. And now I do this. So was it successful marketing after all?

You be the judge.

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